Spiritual Fitness Within the Profession of ArmsBy Michael Pocklington August 4, 2020
This article will briefly consider the place of Spiritual Fitness, after a considered definition, within the Profession of Arms and the interoperability of both.
The Profession of Arms
Being a steward of the Military Profession, the Profession of Arms is a responsibility; or even better articulated, an ownership of many attributes. These include: having the will to win; the knowledge and desire for no substitute for victory; and living the profession defined by values, ethics, standards and a codes of conduct. The status as a profession is granted by those who we are accountable to – the people of our nation¹. Within our Defence Force, and more intimately the Australian Army, this is built upon a decorated and proud history of certain capabilities and assets, standards and principles, a few of which may be:
Readiness: The ability of a force to be committed to operations within a specified time, referring to the availability and proficiency / serviceability of personnel, equipment, facilities and consumables allocated to a force. A soldier’s engagement to his or her purpose inserts into the capability; being ready mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to grasp and engage with a given intent with a resounding view to success.
Sustainability: The ability of said force to continue relentlessly conducting operations and maintaining the intent of those operations for the effects required. Also inferred is the capacity to retain hope towards the future outcomes regardless of the prevailing circumstances.
Personnel: As an asset members are selected, trained, skilled, passionate and equipped to complete assigned operational tasking. An abandonment of the core beliefs and values of an individual soldier and a disrespect towards the way of doing business and life is one, if not the greatest, destructive behavioural pattern of what is the greatest asset of the Australian Army, it’s people. Warfare is always a human endeavour which demands of its participants a range of martial skills, which are to be ever increasing².
Spiritual Fitness can be to a certain degree defined as an awareness, that one's spirit has been exercised, shaped, formed and resolved to a conclusion and therefore 'fit' to where one is 'right with themselves and right with others'. Being 'right' meaning we are in a condition or on a significant expedition towards who we want to be, having been 'nurtured and natured' to be, and upon self-reflection, aligned with our beliefs, convictions and values³.
Being 'right' with ourselves is about having the ethical and moral courage to live within those convictions and beliefs we have formed. This brings a comfort and peace that even during the onset of stress, grief, duress or crisis we have a foundation in which to return to for peace, life and satisfaction. Including having a capacity to embrace success and forgive ourselves when necessary.4
Being 'right' with others is an extension of being 'right' with ourselves. It reflects the relationships we have with our families, loved ones, mates and community. We have concern for their wellbeing and become available to help, support and work with others, by definition 'buddy care' within the Australian Army.5
This Spiritual Fitness shaping is critical in the formative years; the journey from a recruit to a soldier, a novice to a master in the Profession of Arms. As a mass of skills, experiences, relationships and capabilities are gained and retained, a formation and embracing of the expected behaviours and ideals of a soldier are built – the soldier’s spirit is becoming fitter. The tenets of the Profession of Arms are being imprinted into the soldiers, for choice of better words, DNA of the heart, as they strive for Professional Mastery.
Where does Spiritual Fitness Fit
Former General of the US Army, George C. Marshall states "The soldier's heart, the soldier's spirit and the soldier's soul are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him or her, they cannot be relied upon and will fail..."6 Spiritual Fitness by this definition underpins the foundational capabilities, standards and capacities of soldiers within the Profession of Arms.
The measure of the ability of the soldier is ideally exercised and tested before being thrust into an operational environment and significant harm's way. The measure of Spiritual Fitness can reveal significant indicators to how a soldier will measure up when placed in those situations of duress, crisis, ambiguity and uncertainness; the conditions of being in harm's way – not unusual in an operational setting.
Job performance in a range of circumstances is an indicator of Spiritual Fitness. Being asked to work under arduous conditions, with little encouragement and at times facing potentially hopeless situations will reveal one's character; to which spirit and spiritual fitness is intertwined. A memorial fixed upon a simple dinner table by an ANZAC Chaplain at Gallipoli shares a familiar text - 'greater love has no man than to lay his life down for a friend' - not negotiable capacity which reflects and is valiantly but sadly at times affixed, to the incredible actions and attributes of the spiritual fitness of our soldiers, both past and present.7
Having the self-confidence to act autonomously despite risk or ambiguity is a character trait and ability that reflects a very healthy and fit spirit. A soldier that knows where they stand, is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and has an active engaged heart in relationships reflects confidence from a formed spirit. At times called a 'sacred space' this self-confidence model comes from a place of courage, judgement, imaginations and intellects, formed over time and experience.8
Positively understanding the purpose and consequences of one's actions reflects a strong self-awareness and fit spirit. This understanding is affected by one's identity, belief systems and standards; which usually have been formed, wrestled with and cemented by experience and people over time. One could argue the Australian Army’s formative courses and subsequent training cycle or continuum gives a soldier or officer the opportunity to put this thesis to the test.
To be mentally tough, as part of being physically fit with a mind and spirit formed with the will to win, I submit, is a pre-determinate to being a master within the Profession of Arms. Spiritually, if one is not right with one's self a diminishing capacity to be 'right' with others occurs, limiting the capability to be a Master of the Profession of Arms. In contrast, being spiritually fit brings a capability to the Profession of Arms, making a positive and influential difference, a defined quality of service and formed product; an individual whose charcter ensures that the tenets of Professional Mastery within the Profession of Arms is not negotiable.
1 Dempsey, E,M. General US Army, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, American Military. A White Paper of the Profession of Arms, 2001, p 3.
2 Preston, M. Silver, L. Australian Special Operations, 1940 – 2003, p 16.
3 Johnston, M. The Spiritual Fitness Manual, 2010, p 02.
4 Ibid, p 02.
5 Ibid, p 06.
6 Johnston, M. The Spiritual Fitness Manuel, 2010, p 03.
7 The Bible Society. Their Sacrifice, 2004, p 69.
8 Roberts, S. B, RABBI. Professional and Spiritual Pastoral Care, 2012, p 421